Couponing to Travel, day trip, destinations, resources, saving money, Travel Life, travel tips

March 2019: How to Save Money with MORE Travel?!?

Welp, I’ve just about made it! I’ve wanted to save $2000 in coupons and sales in just over four months, and in March alone I couponed over half of that amount. Yes, I scored some super-big deals this month (two of them were each worth about $500), and well as several smaller ones. And yes, I will share how I did it with you.

But first, you may want to catch up on ways I’ve saved each month since the beginning of the year:

Here’s what I did in January.

And here’s February.

If you want to know what I’m saving all this money for, this post explains it. 

Spring Break Bucks

ScienceWorks rocks
Glowing rocks at the science museum… membership and admission covered by babysitting!

Like most adults, I don’t get a designated “spring break”. But kids still do. Parents often need to hire babysitters for longer hours during spring break and other school vacations. Since I babysit on Fridays, I made some extra money for the extra hours.

If you’re good around kids, school holiday babysitting isn’t even hard. In fact, we had some fun playing tourist around town. Since the kids’ spring break covered two Fridays, on the first Friday we went to the nearby town of Ashland for the Scienceworks science museum and Dagoba chocolate factory. The next week, we went downtown to the food truck food court and then toured Harry & David’s world headquarters. (The kids liked the sweets, and I had to agree!) So basically these gigs involved having fun. They did like sleeping in each morning and then playing video games before doing anything else, so I got to use that time to read guidebooks and plan for my upcoming trip. Win-win!

I also took on some extra shifts at my regular job. So far this year, I’ve made an extra $926.26 in additional income. Half of that ($463.13) is going to go toward my trip. While I’m happy with this amount, I was expecting to have earned a little more by this point, so hopefully I’ll have more moneymaking opportunities before I leave in May.

Preparing for Departure

Travelon Packing Cubes
Four packing cubes for the price of zero… now that’s a deal worth getting excited over!

I’m not leaving the country until the second week of May, but I did a lot in March to get ready for it. And I tried to save money everywhere I could!

The most important item that I need for this trip is a passport. Unfortunately, the US government isn’t too keen on offering discounts. (I did unintentionally get a discount on my very first passport, but that’s a different story!) But anyway, I applied for that so I should receive a new passport in time.

Another key element was getting a flight between Ireland and England. The plane ticket I bought last month flew into Dublin and out of London, so I searched Kayak.com and found a ticket for the short hop for just under $34. No couponing was involved here, but I think it’s the cheapest flight I’ve ever flown!

I booked a couple of short tours to major sights outside of the city, and that was a good area to save a few bucks. I’m going on an overnight tour to Blarney Castle, Cork, and the Cliffs of Moher with Paddywagon Tours, and managed to save $11 there. I also used The London Concierge (exclusive to buyers of The London Pass) to book a Stonehenge and Bath tour with Golden Tours. I made my booking during a flash sale weekend, so I saved $15!

As far as gear goes, I’m trying to use what I have. But I did have an Eddie Bauer $10 off coupon. Combined with a 50% off sale weekend, I got a set of packing cubes for free!

Healthy Living

Medford Growers Market
Walking to the farmers market kills two (healthy) birds with one stone- plus I saved on gas!

The word “health” and “cheap” don’t normally go together. I had an unusual case of adult hand-foot-and-mouth at the beginning of the month. Because of the blisters covering my throat, I could only eat and drink certain items for a few days. To get a better deal on these foods and avoid spreading germs to innocent shoppers, I tried Fred Meyer’s ClickList for the first time. I ordered everything online, used digital coupons, went to the parking lot, and everything was delivered to my car. I still prefer shopping in-store so I can price compare and find clearance specials, but it’s nice to know that this option is available and cost-effective.

After I was back to my healthy self, I decided to get even healthier. My plan is simple: walk a few more miles and make sure at least 50% of what I eat is vegetable. This will get me in better shape so I can walk even more around Ireland and England (though I won’t necessarily follow the vegetable rule there!) This hasn’t directly saved me any money, but it will allow me to do more on my trip and save on health costs in the long run. And so far, it hasn’t cost me any more than my usual food.

Big Ticket Savers

Couponing Spreadsheet March Update
Look at all I’ve saved and earned! Just $100 left to coupon!

I’m so glad I got a reward credit card. My CapitalOne card offered a $500 reward for spending $3000 in three months. This was on top of its regular cash back. Normally, $3000 is a lot of money, but I put all my trip expenses on it, plus made a few other strategic purchases.

And Finally: How to Save Money with MORE Travel

Union Creek Oregon
The views from our snowshoe trip. But soon, I’ll exchange snow for sea!

At the beginning of the month, the only entertainment I had planned was seeing an advance screening of the movie Breakthrough. Entry was free with an invitation, and I bought a discounted Cinemark gift certificate from GiftCardGranny so I could get free popcorn. The movie was great and you should go see it, but I was in for a surprise at all the adventures the rest of the month would bring!

As I mentioned above, day trips while babysitting were a great way to get paid to adventure locally. Helping at camp two weekends this month was also a way to free fun. Meals, lodging, and activities are covered, so I’m spending less than I would need to spend at home.

On a free weekend, I went snowshoeing and sledding with my parents. By going as a group, I didn’t have to buy a sno-park permit just for myself. Plus, it’s not safe to snowshoe solo.

But the best travel deal I cashed in on this month won’t happen until November and December. Swagbucks recently added Carnival Cruises gift cards as an option for redemption, and they were extra discounted when they were first posted. Although that offer is no longer valid, I’d encourage you to keep checking on Swagbucks‘ rewards as they often offer some good ones, but long story short, I got the entire base price for a 5-day cruise to The Bahamas for just $30!

I also got a Carnival credit card to help pay for the taxes, fees, and excursion expenses for this trip. So I’ll soon be getting another credit card reward, this time for $200 plus FunPoints. And despite being in my 20s, I joined AARP Rewards for Good so I could get 10% off another cruise gift card. (I bought it with my CapitalOne card to help me reach my $3000 minimum.) I’ll still have to pay for my flight to Fort Lauderdale where the cruise departs, so maybe I’ll be doing these monthly couponing updates even after my Eurotrip so you can see how I’m saving for my cruise!

 

 

 

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Carry-On Toiletries, health, travel tips

Making Liquids TSA-Friendly

If you’ve flown at all in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with the rule for liquid carry-ons: you can fill a one-quart or one-liter plastic zip bag with containers no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces (100 mL). With this kind of restriction, is it really possible to take all your toiletries without checking your luggage? I am, and I’ll be gone for three months! Here’s how I’m making it happen:

Toothpaste

3oz toothpaste

A lot of toothpaste tubes are actually perfectly fine to take in your carry-on. Remember that the TSA limit for liquid carry-ons is 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters)- that’s a lot bigger than most things labeled as “travel-sized”! If you’re going on a week-long trip, one of the free sample-sized tubes that they give out at the dentist office will work fine. (If you run out of toothpaste early, cut open the tube for about an extra day’s worth of toothpaste.) If you need more toothpaste for longer trips or because you’ll share with others, look among the normal-sized toothpaste instead of the travel section. I found a three-ounce tube, so I’m set!

Soap

dr bronners soap

Many travelers swear by Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap. I do take a small bottle on most of my trips because it the condensed formula lasts a long time, but it’s not exactly my favorite. I don’t use Dr. Bronner’s at home because it’s not as effective as other soaps and tends to leave a residue, especially when being used as a shampoo substitute. Instead, I use my Dr. Bronner’s once every few days and supplement with a solid bar of soap. The kind I use, both at-home and on-the-road, is a natural oil-based soap made by a company that gave me extras since I was the last customer just before it went out of business. So while I unfortunately can’t recommend a specific kind of bar soap (and I’ll sadly have to find another supplier when I run out of my last few bars), there are plenty of bar soaps out there for you to find one that perfectly suits your needs. I bring a family-size bar and cut it into chunks as I go so that only one small piece is wet. As a bonus, soap bars are like an air freshener for your suitcase!

Insect Repellent

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If you like to use the aerosol cans of bug repellent, it could be confiscated, even from checked luggage. I prefer to use DEET-free spray, comes in a spray bottle instead. I wanted to use up my almost-full bottle of spray that I currently had, but when I checked the label, it was marked as four ounces. Yes, I think companies purposefully make four-ounce bottles a better deal so they can charge you extra when you have to go back and buy a 3.4-ounce bottle! Instead of paying for an extra bottle of repellent, I instead decided to pour it into a travel-sized bottle. I do this with other liquids all the time, but this was the first time doing so with a spray bottle. Sure, I could just pour it into an ordinary bottle and rub the repellent on like a lotion, but I’m pretty sure it’s sold as a spray because that’s the way it’s most effective. Fortunately, I had a travel bottle that had the same exact size of opening as the original bottle, so I could just pop the original spray mechanism on the new bottle. Since this bottle was smaller, I had to trim down the hose so that the lid would fit on. Because I was afraid this might leak, I cut a small circle of plastic, poked a hole in the center, and slid it onto the hose before twisting the bottle shut. (You can put a piece of plastic underneath any liquid lid to prevent leaks, but unless it has a hose like it did in this case, you’ll have to remove it before you use it.) I also put a piece of cotton next to the nozzle to absorb any leaks, but so far not a single drop has leaked, and I packed this over a week ago!

Sunscreen

sunscreen

For my eighteenth birthday, a friend gave me a Mary Kay travel kit for my birthday, which included two small empty bottles that I could fill with my own liquids. However, my bottles have outlasted their production, because Mary Kay no longer sells these. (But I recently found another brand of bottle, and I may like it even better. Just keep reading for a few more sentences and you’ll find out what it is!) For the past several years, these bottles have been filled with things like shampoo, conditioner, soap, and even liquid deodorant at one point in time. I think this is my first time packing sunscreen in them, though.

Since I burn easily and will be outside quite a bit, perhaps one small bottle of sunscreen won’t be enough. I recently bought a sunscreen stick to supplement this liquid. I found it at an outdoor supply store in the fisherman’s section. Of course, hats and sleeved shirts help keep the harmful rays away, too!

Shampoo

gotoob shampoo

Many travelers don’t take shampoo at all since it’s provided in just about every single hotel room on the face of the planet. But some people have a specific brand that works best for them. And hostels are usually a toss-up in whether or not they provide shampoo. Plus there are other forms of accommodation, like camping and rentals where you definitely shouldn’t count on this. So while I’ll always jump at the opportunity to use free shampoo and conditioner, I am bringing something for those times when it’s not around.

Now I can share my latest discovery in the world of traveling with liquids! I recently got a GoToob, and it’s filled with a shampoo and conditioner combo to start out my trip. These are travel bottles made out of silicone, which means more flexibility and less possibility of damage. (But if they are damaged, they’re covered by a lifetime warranty!) While I still love my plastic bottles and will continue to use them for liquids that aren’t silicone-compatible, GoToobs are my new go-to travel bottle, and I don’t see myself pouring shampoo into any other container! Although the bottle size ranges up to 3 fluid ounces, I downsized to just two ounces because that bottle includes a suction cup, perfect for sticking on the wall of a shower that lacks soap dishes! And since GoToobs are food-safe, towards the end of my trip I may wash out the remaining shampoo and fill it with a delicious Greek or Turkish condiment to take home with me! As I travel, I will compare the silicone GoToob to its plastic counterparts and keep you updated on which works better!

Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry powder

When I read about other long-term carry-on-only travelers discussing how they pack sample-sized detergent, I have to laugh. They do know laundry soap comes in powder form too, right?

Even if you’re hand-washing, as long as you use warm water, powder soap will dissolve enough to be just as effective as liquid. The only problem with laundry powder is that it tends to look… well, suspicious! I don’t pack any kind of powder in a plastic baggie, since people automatically think “drugs” when it’s packaged like that. I put it into Snapware containers and make sure it’s clearly labeled. Technically, anything that you repackage needs to be labeled, but at least with most things you can tell what it is by sight and smell. Since powders look suspiciously like something else, it would be suspicious for a TSA agent to get close enough to smell what it is!

By the way, I bring a homemade laundry soap that’s so condensed, only one tablespoon is needed for a full load. You can find recipes like this online, but I’ve made a few tweaks for maximum effectiveness and traveler-friendliness. Would anyone be interested in getting the recipe for this or any of my other homemade travel toiletries?

Other Liquids to Take

tsa quart liquid bag

I got a free sample-sized bottle of mouthwash that I’m taking with me, but if you don’t have room or don’t want to buy a miniature bottle, this certainly isn’t a necessity. I am also bringing along tea tree oil. These typically come in small bottles anyway, so there’s no need to transfer packaging or look for something specifically travel-sized. The most important liquid might be hand sanitizer! I’ve been carrying the same little bottle around for over a year and can easily refill it from larger bottles of hand sanitizer. Hey, with as popular as hand sanitizer is, it can even be refilled for free along the road by using sanitizer stations at schools, hotels, and other public places. All together, all the liquids easily fit into the TSA carry-on-approved one-quart bag!

This post was made possible by HumanGear, the newest sponsor of the Mediterranean European Trek! They provided products to use on my trip, but all opinions are my own. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on different HumanGear products!

resources, travel tips

What’s Your Go-To Travel Gear?

Do you have any travel gear that you can’t leave home without?

A few weeks ago, I was at the yearly yard sale for a local outdoor store. I was hoping to find some good deals on gear to take with me when I travel. Not only did I find that, I found Lewis N. Clark!

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Lewis N. Clark has just about everything a traveler would need, whether a thru-trail hiker or an urban adventurer. At the sale, I picked up several of their products, including a side release buckle strap (to keep contents of my bag in one place) and a dual converter kit (to safely charge my electronics). Later at home, I went onto the website and found dozens more Lewis N. Clark products that my store didn’t have!

I was excitedly anticipating the day that my box from Lewis N. Clark would arrive. The delivery truck just couldn’t come fast enough! When it finally did come, I tore open the package to find the following:

Lewis N Clark folding brush with mirror

Folding Brush with Mirror– My current hairbrush is almost the size of my entire forearm! There’s no way that would be practical for living three months out of a carry-on bag! I considered taking a flat, wide-tooth comb until I found out that Lewis N. Clark has this folding brush with mirror! The bristles and mirrored-handle fold in, making this easy to fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand. I remember having a travel brush similar to this when I was a kid, but it was a cheap version and every time I folded it, more bristles popped off. The Lewis N. Clark brand is a much better quality made with more durable materials, so I have no worries with this being my only hairbrush for three months!

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CamPack Towel– I have to admit, I have been eyeing those super-absorbent compact travel towels for a long, long time! For the past several years, whenever I needed to take a towel on a trip, I would bring either a hand towel or a turban towel, and just use that after showering. While that took up less space in my suitcase than a normal towel, it took them a long time to dry, and I would sometimes have to transport a partially-moist towel that would end up making everything in my suitcase smell a bit akin to mildew. I’m excited to have the CamPack Towel now because not only are they quick-drying, but they take up only a tiny bit of suitcase space- much less than even a hand towel! In fact, it doesn’t have to take up any suitcase space since it comes with a bag and carabiner that I can clip to the outside of my backpack. I got the blue towel that’s medium-sized, and noticed that, when folded in half diagonally, it makes a decent headband, too!

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Latex Clothesline– In most of my extended travel (meaning about two weeks usually), I would stay with a friend or relative for at least a couple days, and I would just do my laundry using their washer and dryer. With shorter trips, I’ve simply been able to pack enough clothes for the entire trip. I don’t know many people living in Europe, and I certainly can’t take three month’s worth of clean clothes with me! (I don’t even have that many outfits!) I may use a laundromat or a hostel coin-operated machine a time or two on my trip, but those can be expensive and I would much rather spend my money on more adventurous endeavors. To keep clean and save money, I will wash my clothes in the sink or shower using my condensed homemade laundry powder, wring them out, and then hang them on this latex clothesline, which can be strung outside, in the bathroom, or across my bunk. And I don’t have to waste precious suitcase space by bringing clothespins. The braided latex will pinch clothes into place. When combined with my moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing, I won’t have to worry about wet OR smelly clothes!

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No-Jet-Lag– This is not a Lewis N. Clark product, but parent company LCI Brands also distributes No-Jet-Lag. These natural-ingredient pills claim that when taken on flight days, they can remedy one of the biggest problems that can spoil a long-distance trip. I’ve never jumped more than three time zones at a time while traveling, but even a couple hours difference takes some getting adjusted to. With a nine-hour difference on the way there, and a ten-hour difference on the way back, I will really be putting No-Jet-Lag to the test! While I haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure that twenty-five years of positive reviews means that it really works!

Make sure to check back here during my trip so you can see how this travel gear is working for me. But until then, why don’t you try it out for yourself? You have the opportunity to win a Travel Prize Pack containing these four items in this CONTEST! Edit: Congratulations to the winners who were notified 21st of June, 2015! 

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Lewis N. Clark provided No-Jet-Lag, CamPack Towels, Latex Clotheslines, and Folding Brushes with Mirror for the purpose of review and giveaway. All opinions for these and other mentioned items are my own. 

resources, saving money, travel tips

My New “Old-School” Cell Phone: The Search for Affordable International Communication

I got my first cell phone as a fourteen-year-old. Back then, cell phones had not quite hit the equivalent of a vital body part as it is today, but most people I knew had one. That old Nokia could do just about anything a cell phone could do: display a tiny color screen, make calls, receive text messages, play games, loudly announce awesome ringtones, keep charged for days on end, and be virtually indestructible.

Ten years and countless cell phones later, times have changed. My current Android is nothing like my very first phone, and it’s pretty outdated by today’s standards, but with its WiFi and data capabilities, it is more advanced than the technology used to power the moon landing. However, I recently got a new phone. And it has more in common with my Nokia than my Android.

Why?

phone 003

When American Phones Go Abroad

I don’t entirely understand the technology of what goes on inside cellular devices. All I know is that technology that is used in cell phones within the US is different from the cell phone technology in other countries. Basically, my phone won’t work in Europe.

Many people pay to have their phones unlocked, but not all cell phones have the capabilities to be unlocked. Either way, obtaining an unlocked phone can be an expensive endeavor.

Considering the Alternatives

Unless your goal is to completely cut off everyone you’ve ever known or want to know while traveling, it’s important to consider the communication options of your destination. Even the iconic British phone booths don’t contain telephones anymore, so definitely don’t expect pay phones to be available, especially if you want to make an international call.

I first considered downloading an app on my current phone so that I could use WiFi to make and receive phone calls. This would be a good idea, but there are a few downsides. For one, these apps do not come free. Even if you find one that doesn’t have a downloading cost, they do charge by the minute. That wouldn’t be so bad, if it was not for the second downside: you need to be on the internet! WiFi seems like it’s everywhere, except those places where you need it most. I looked into getting a mobile WiFi hotspot, but whether I rented or purchased one, it would be expensive. Plus, if anything went wrong or it didn’t work, I don’t think any warranty would cover shipping to Europe.

Yes, the best option seemed to be getting an unlocked cell phone. Most unlocked phones I found cost dozens to hundreds of dollars more than their locked counterparts. Couldn’t there just be some cheap phone out there that happened to also be unlocked? Through my online research, I found out that in order for an unlocked cell phone to work in Europe, I would need a SIM card specified for Europe. Most of the travel experts said to pick up one of these at the destination airport. While that made sense, I was concerned about it. What if I couldn’t find one at the airport? What if the unlocked phone I bought ended up not being compatible with them? What if I wanted to comfort my family by calling them as soon as I landed? Isn’t everything at the airport overpriced anyway?

Finding a Plan… and My Old-School Cell Phone

I thought that I must be able to find a European SIM card in some online store. Surely someone on eBay or Amazon wanted to make a few extra bucks from it. Instead, I found something much, much better.

I found Telestial!

Telestial is the perfect online shop for people who want to plan ahead with their overseas communication. They sell all kinds of unlocked cell phones, from top-of-the-line smart phones to ones that resemble my very first phone. If you already have an unlocked cell phone but just need that tiny, but necessary chip, they sell all kinds of SIM cards to cover just about any destination. All of the SIM cards are prepaid, which means no surprise bills to ruin your trip.

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So Why Did I Pick This One?

When I first began looking through the cell phones that Telestial offers, I knew that I wanted something basic. I ended up with the JT Travel Buddy. Right now, I can hear the cellie-obsessed around the world gasp. It’s almost as if I just announced I am willingly amputating my perfectly good arm in exchange for a immobile plastic prosthetic. If you can’t live without a phone that’s smarter than you, then no worries. Telestial has over a dozen options for smart phones- and even tablets! But here are my reasons for choosing this phone:

  • It’s Smaller! Taking up less space means I’ll have more room in my bag for other essentials (or souvenirs). This is especially important for those doing extended trips carry-on only.
  • It’s Harder to Damage! People still joke about how the Nokia phones akin to the one I had ten years ago were virtually indestructible. If I hadn’t donated mine, I’m sure it would still be running! These sorts of screens are more durable than touch screens. Plus, if a touch screen gets damaged, it could mean the whole phone stops working. I once had a touch screen phone where the screen sensors started to go crazy. That meant I couldn’t send outgoing calls or messages, and it was really hard to receive them! It will take some getting used to returning to button numbers, but they seem to be more reliable.
  • It Holds Its Charge! Let’s face it: part of your bedtime routine includes plugging your phone into your charger, right? When staying in hostels or other budget accommodation, nightly charging isn’t always practical. Without data and programs constantly sucking up energy, this phone will keep working, even after being unplugged for days. I guess that makes this a more environmentally-friendly option too, right?
  • It’s Theft-Resistant! Okay, so there isn’t any sort of special guard on this phone, but think about it: what would YOU rather steal: this, or an iPhone?
  • It’s Temporary! This will be my phone for three months, not my whole life. When I return, it will go into storage until the next time I take an international trip. All I’ll have to do is get a new SIM card. And if for whatever reason I lose it on my trip, it won’t be a big deal.
  • I Can Still Get WiFi and Apps! Not having internet access or the ability to get into my travel apps did cross my mind when I was considering phones. But the good news is, I can still access WiFi… as long as I bring my Android, that is! A WiFi-enabled device can still surf the web overseas. This new device is specifically for phone calls and text messages.

And like all the products from Telestial, if in the rare chance you experience any problems, their customer service can help you, even while you’re abroad!

This is my story so far in the search for affordable international communication. It began to help provide some peace of mind for those concerned about my trip, but honestly, I also think that having a working phone with me will give me a greater sense of confidence as I conquer the world. I can’t wait to tell you about my experiences with the JT Travel Buddy and European SIM card once I begin to use them, and I’d love to hear your stories of how you stayed in contact while traveling as well!

This post was made possible by Telestial, which provided me with the mentioned unlocked phone and SIM card for review purposes. I was planning to purchase these items from them before this negotiation, and my stated opinions have not been swayed.